Former Philly archdiocese CFO Guzzardi sentenced for embezzling $906,000

Posted: August 26, 2012

Anita Guzzardi's attorney described her on Friday as a gambling addict from a family of addicts, a woman whose spending binge was triggered by the emotional trauma and feelings of betrayal when the child sex-abuse scandal engulfed her church and her employer - the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

To Assistant District Attorney Lisa Caulfield, however, gambling was just one aspect of Guzzardi's crimes - she siphoned $906,000 over almost seven years, stealing 330 checks of varying amounts drawn on the church treasury.

Caulfield said the 42-year-old Guzzardi was motivated by greed and a "love of nice things" - regular sprays of fresh-cut flowers for herself and friends, Ferragamo shoes, and frequent travel for herself and family.

Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Ellen Ceisler accepted elements of both versions of Guzzardi, then sentenced the former archdiocesan chief financial officer to two to seven years in prison.

Ceisler rejected defense attorney Louis R. Busico's request for probation. Busico said probation would let Guzzardi add to the $260,000 she has already repaid the archdiocese. But Ceisler said she could not accept Guzzardi's suggestion "of the failings of the archdiocese as a mitigating factor in a situation like this."

More important, Ceisler said, probation would send the wrong message to other business and nonprofit financial officers who might be tempted to embezzle.

Guzzardi turned and looked at her husband, Angelo, and mouthed "I'm sorry" as Ceisler imposed the sentence. A chorus of cries arose from more than 30 relatives and friends who packed the courtroom in a show of support.

The sobs grew louder moments later when Ceisler rejected Busico's request to allow Guzzardi a few days to say goodbye to family before reporting to prison.

"She was told to be prepared to go to prison," Ceisler said. Guzzardi stood and, guided by Philadelphia sheriff's deputies, walked through the door into the courtroom's holding cells without looking back.

Ceisler also put Guzzardi on seven years of probation when she gets out of prison. The judge also ordered her to pay $646,627 restitution to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

A South Philadelphia native, Guzzardi, of Barrington, Camden County, began working for the archdiocese in 1989 and rose steadily through the financial ranks. She became controller in 2005, and was promoted to acting chief financial officer and then CFO in July 2011. During that period, Guzzardi's annual salary went from $93,000 to $124,677.

"She had a good education, means, a great home and job, and family and friends who loved her and supported her. She had it all," Caulfield said.

Guzzardi's career collapsed the same month she was named CFO. According to court documents, American Express fraud investigators contacted the District Attorney's Office that month to report numerous checks drawn on archdiocesan accounts and sent to cover thousands of dollars in cash advances at various casinos charged on Guzzardi's two personal American Express cards.

Church officials confronted Guzzardi, and she was fired. In March, Guzzardi was arrested and charged with embezzlement. She pleaded guilty July 2.

Among Busico's witnesses was Richard Sockriter, an addictions counselor who said he had had weekly therapy sessions with Guzzardi since her arrest. Sockriter said she was a pathological gambler who also has depression and anxiety disorder.

Guzzardi's older sister, Rosemaria Gallo, pleaded for leniency and told the judge that she and her sister "came from a dysfunctional home." Gallo said their father was a compulsive gambler and their mother a compulsive shopper.

Guzzardi begged her family and church officials to forgive her.

"If it takes me the rest of my life, I'll try to make up for all the lies, heartbreak, and betrayal I've caused all these people," she told Ceisler.

Caulfield asked Ceisler to impose a prison sentence of 51/2 to 11 years and said only a third of the embezzled money was spent at casinos. With no children, Guzzardi used the bulk of the money for lavish spending on herself and her extended family, the prosecutor said.

"You simply can't give a get-out-of-jail-free card requested by someone who literally partied for seven years on somebody else's dime," Caulfield said.


Contact Joseph A. Slobodzian at 215-854-2985, jslobodzian@phillynews.com, or @joeslobo on Twitter.

|
|
|
|
|